On Thursday, The Delhi high court quashed the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government’s doorstep delivery of ration scheme. The court affirmed that foodgrains provided by the Central Government cannot be used by the Delhi Government for this scheme.
The Delhi Sarkari Ration Dealers Sangh had filed a plea in the High Court challenging the doorstep ration delivery scheme or the Mukhya Mantri Ghar Ghar Ration Yojana, which was touted by the AAP as a visionary policy by Arvind Kejriwal. A group of Fair Price Shop (FPS) owners had submitted a plea in the Delhi High Court against the scheme. The shop owners had called the move beyond ‘ultra vires’ (beyond one’s legal power or authority).
A Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh delivered the verdict responding to the shop owners’ plea, saying that any such scheme framed by the GNCTD should comply with all the requirements of the National Food Security Act. While the court said that the govt is entitled to frame a scheme for doorstep delivery of foodgrains or rations to the beneficiaries under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), it has to be done from its own resources in compliance with the prevailing laws.
The court order said, “The Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister is bound to communicate its decisions/ resolutions, including any such scheme or proposal to the Lieutenant Governor, so as to enable him to examine the same and to take a call on whether, or not, he has a difference of opinion with any such scheme.”
The High Court further noted that the Delhi govt scheme does not comply with the provisions of the NFSA and TPDS Order, 2015. The Court also said that as the scheme was approved/ consented to by the Lieutenant Governor, it cannot be implemented in its present form.
The central govt had objected to the doorstep delivery of ration scheme saying that the fair price shop owners form an integral part of the National Food Security Act, and that the scheme mitigates the architecture of the Act.
Kejriwal’s Controversial Mukhya Mantri Ghar Ghar Ration Yojana
The scheme by the Arvind Kejriwal government was always a controversial one since its advent, as the Central Government maintained that the subsidised foodgrains allotted under the National Food Security Act are not permissible to be used for the state government scheme. The centre has also said that subsidised foodgrains allotted by it under the NFS Act can’t be used in a scheme with a different name. Any changes/amendments in the provisions of the Act, including nomenclatures used for distribution of NFSA foodgrains, can only be done through established Parliamentary procedures. Furthermore, The Central Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution pointed out that provision for household delivery of rations does not exist in the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013.
Due to these reasons, the central govt had told the Delhi govt that use of any new nomenclature/scheme for distribution of NFSA entitlements/foodgrains shall not be permissible. However, the central govt had added that they will not have any objection in the Arvind Kejriwal launches any ration scheme without mixing the elements of NFSA foodgrains.
Moreover, Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal denied giving a green signal to the scheme and returned it for reconsideration. While the scheme was set to be launched in March 2021, the provisions in the bill had become a contentious issue among the BJP opposition and several Ration Dealers in the Delhi jurisdiction.
The issue revolved around the fact that Kejriwal’s state-specific food delivery scheme which includes doorstep delivery of packaged wheat flour, rice and sugar contested with the Central Government’s Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and Priority Household (PHH) categories of the NFSA Act. The Centre issues foodgrains at the scale of 35 Kg per family per month under the AAY scheme and at the scale of 5 Kg per person per month under the PHH category.
The Development of Food and Public Distribution (DFPD) had filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court in October 2021 against the interim orders of the Delhi High Court calling out the implementation of Kejriwal’s Mukhya Mantri Ghar Ghar Ration Yojana will adversely impact numerous NFSA, 2013 beneficiaries. It clarified that doing so will thereby create an opaque parallel ccheme and will also affect the implementation of the One Nation One Ration Card Plan in Delhi.
However, On November 15, the apex court had declined to entertain a petition by the Centre and another by FPS owners against the Delhi High court interim order that allowed the AAP government to carry out the state government scheme on a temporary basis. However, in the latest ruling, the court has freshly asked the AAP government to step back and stop the scheme.